Wheeler kicks off campaign at crowded party
State Treasurer Ted Wheeler officially kicked off his campaign for mayor Wednesday night at a crowded party in Southeast Portland.
Wheeler, who was greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic supporters before he spoke, said major issues in the race are homelessness, affordable housing, the city's deteriorating roads, and connecting people to jobs. Wheeler said incumbent Charlie Hales has been slow to address the issues during his first term as mayor.
"He's come a short distance in a long time," said Wheeler.
Notable faces in the crowd included Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner and Joe Esmonde, the business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 and a member of the TriMet board of directors.
Earlier in the day, the Wheeler campaign announced he had been endorsed by former mayors Vera Katz, Tom Potter, and Sam Adams. The news was a frequent topic of conversation in the crowd.
Wheeler is a fifth generation Oregonian who was born and raised in Portland, where he graduated from Lincoln High School. He then received a bachelor's degree in economics from Standford University in 1985, an MBA from Columbia Univeristy, and a master's degree in public policy for Harvard University.
Before entering politics, Wheeler worked for a number of financial institutions, including the Bank of America and Copper Mountain Trust.
Wheeler has proven he can defeat an incumbent albeit, a controversial one. He won his first campaign by defeating Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn in 2006 after years of turmoil on the Multnomah County Commission commonly attributed to disputes among the so-called "Mean Girls." He took office in January 2007 and is widely credited with bringing peace to the commission and taking better care of the county's day-to-day business.
Wheeler was thought to be considering running for Portland mayor in 2012 when Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski appointed him to replace State Treasurer Ben Westlund, who died in office in march 2010. Wheeler defeated Democrat Rick Metsger in the May 18 Democratic primary election and then defeated Republican Chris Telfer, Progressive Walt Brown and Constitution Party candidate Michael Marsh in the special election in November 2010 for the balance of Westlund's term, which was set to expire in 2013. Wheeler was subsequently elected to a full term as State Treasurer in 2012, easily defeating Republican Thomas Cox in the 2012 General Election.
Some political observers thought Wheeler would run for reelection in 2016 and then run for Oregon Governor in 2018. But then Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ruled Wheeler could not run for reelection again because he had already been elected to two consecutive terms. Then Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned in February 2015 and was succeeded by Secretary of State Kate Brown. She was quickly assumed to be the strongest candidate to be elected to serve out the remainder of Kitzhaber's term in 2015.
Rumors quickly surfaced that Wheeler would not run against Brown next year but would instead take on Mayor Charlie Hales. Wheeler did not discourage the speculation, even after the Portland Tribune broke the news that Hales would run for reelection on March 6, 2015. After months of increasing attention, Wheeler announced for mayor on Sept. 9.